Welcome back to our column on the oldest buildings in each of New York City’s five boroughs – following looks into Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. The Bronx is home to some of the most stunning buildings, with varied and interesting stories to tell, from Edgar Allen Poe’s final home, to colonial era manors, and an old snuff mill. Several of the buildings mentioned were used by troops during the Revolutionary War.
Without further ado, here are the top six oldest buildings in the Bronx:
1. The Van Cortlandt House, 1748
The Van Cortlandt House, also known as the Frederick Van Cortlandt House, holds the title of the oldest surviving building in the Bronx (though it is nearly a century younger than the oldest building in Queens). It was built with fieldstone, in a traditional 18th century Georgian style, two and a half stories tall and with double-hipped roof. Frederick Van Cortlandt began to build the house in 1748, but he died before the house was completed. During the Revolutionary War, the house was used by Rochambeau, Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington.
The Van Cortlandt family lived in the house for 140 years until, in 1887, the property was sold to the City of New York. It’s transformation into New York City’s first historic house museum is an interesting one: The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York, who wanted to make the house a public museum, had to find a way to circumvent the fact that there was no provision in New York State Law allowing the stewardship of a publicly owned building by a private organization. By 1896, after a year of campaigning, the Society inspired Chapter 837 of the New York State Legislature, transferring custody of the Van Cortlandt House over to them, and the house became a museum a year later. It continues to work as a museum today and is located within Van Cortlandt Park, one of the city’s largest parks.